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FedEx Drug-Trafficking Charges Linked To Illegal Pharmacies

The U.S. federal government has been cracking down on illegal online pharmacies. FedEx is the latest courier accused of shipping those drugs.

FedEx Drug-Trafficking Charges Linked To Illegal Pharmacies
Coolcaesar / CC BY SA 3.0
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FedEx is facing criminal charges for its alleged role in distributing drugs from illegal pharmacies to people who don't have a prescription — a move that might set a precedent for the part shipping companies play in fighting drug trafficking. (Via Coolcaesar / CC BY SA 3.0, Getty Images)

In an indictment Thursday, prosecutors said FedEx knowingly shipped controlled substances a decade after it had been informed by the DEA, FDA and Congress that illegal online pharmacies were using its services. (Via United States District Court)

The indictment also points out safety concerns over some addresses directing FedEx couriers to schools, parking lots and empty homes. Sometimes, customers even stopped FedEx drivers on the road, demanding their packages. (Via FedEx)

But the shipping giant says it's innocent. NBC has a statement from a FedEx executive who says, "We are a transportation company — we are not law enforcement."

This raises a debate about what level of responsibility shipping companies have in addressing illegal activity among its customers, and questions about privacy rights.

In March, UPS agreed to give up $40 million it acknowledged was revenue from online pharmacies illegally distributing drugs through UPS.

And even the world's most popular search engine, Google, paid $500 million in 2011 to settle the Justice Department's claims it sold ads to illegal online pharmacies. (Via The Wall Street Journal)

FedEx is also arguing taking responsibility for the contents of packages would mean they'd have to violate customers' privacy.

And Bloomberg points out the Controlled Substances Act, which says a shipping company is allowed to transport drugs "in the lawful and usual course of its business." But prosecutors say FedEx violated the law when it knowingly delivered drugs to customers who never even saw a doctor.

FedEx is set to appear in court July 29. If found guilty, the company faces fines as well as forfeiture of at least $800 million in profits made shipping the drugs.